Faster-melting snow causes major flooding in Russia and Kazakhstan

After the Ural burst through dam embankments in Orsk, upstream from Orenburg, on Friday, some residents expressed anger over how local officials had handled the situation, demanding greater compensation and begging for help from Putin.

Floods have sparked evacuations of thousands in the Orenburg region, 1200 km south-east of Moscow after a dam on the river burst last week under the pressure of surging waters.Credit: AP

Putin held a video meeting with Emergencies Minister Alexander Kurenkov and the governors of Orenburg, Kurgan and Tyumen, the worst affected regions.

In Orenburg, some residents expressed disappointment that local officials had not done enough to prepare for the annual snow melt. In his first public comments on the floods, Putin told officials to focus on helping people.

“In some places the water has not arrived yet and in other places it has not flowed away yet, but we need to think right now on how to rebuild housing,” Putin said.

Snow melt

Spring flooding is a usual part of life across Russia – which has an area equal to the United States and Australia combined – as the heavy winter snows melt, swelling powerful rivers in Russia and Central Asia.

Flooded areas in Orenburg, Russia, on Thursday.

Flooded areas in Orenburg, Russia, on Thursday.Credit: Maxar/AP

This year, though, a combination of factors triggered unusually severe flooding, according to emergency workers.

They said soils were waterlogged before winter and then were frozen under deep snow falls which melted very fast in rising spring temperatures and heavy rains.


Climate researchers have long warned that rising temperatures could increase the incidence of extreme weather events, and that heavily forested Russia is of major importance in the global climate equation.

In Kurgan, a region which straddles the Tobol river, water levels are rising. About 14,000 workers were working around the clock to raise the 30-km long Kurgan embankment, Governor Vadim Shumkov said. In the city of Kurgan water levels were at just under 4 metres, Shumkov said.

Kazakhstan has also been badly hit.

The Emergencies Ministry said on Thursday that the number of evacuees stood at more than 98,000, and a state of emergency remained in effect in eight regions of the country.

Emergency workers have removed 8.8 million cubic metres of water from flooded areas, the ministry said. The Kazakh government said movement was restricted on hundreds of kilometres of roads in the Aktobe, Akmola, Atyrau, Kostanai, Mangistau and North Kazakhstan regions.


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